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Uncovering the Dome Paperback – April, 1986
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The book is like a time capsule that contains some timeless truths about the ongoing controversies concerning public funding of sports stadiums. Klobuchar does not seem sympathetic to the idea, but she does retain an objectivity that is praiseworthy considering how volatile the issue can be. Those that are old enough to remember the much loved Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington will know that the thought of moving the Vikings and Twins to comforts of indoors was a travesty. No more mud covered linebackers or lazy summer days under the sun were to be had. Both of the team's owners felt the Minnesota weather was too harsh and unpredictable to allow their champions to endure. Playing outside in an outdated and corroding facility was simply uncouth for such up and coming franchises.
Klobuchar shows some impressive writing skills as she clearly spells out the perennial problems of professional sports teams and their persistent demands for better and better facilities:
"It is this 'contrived scarcity' -- this undersupply and excess demand-which serves as a backdrop to the contested issue of public subsidies for stadiums. To put it another way, there are more cities that want teams than there are teams for cities. Government leaders who either want to gain popularity by acquiring a franchise or are afraid of losing public support because a team abandons their community will make extremely accommodating financial offers, in the form of stadium subsidies, to coax million-dollar sports organizations to either remain in or move to their areas."
This gives the sports team an unfair negotiating advantage. The cities they reside in must build a stadium to keep them around. If they don't they have the option of moving to a city that will build for them. The city that builds the stadium builds a permanent fixture. The team can move but the stadium has to stay, and it must be filled some other way or torn down by the people who live by it. So powerful is this advantage that even public opinion dead set against funding new facilities cannot persuade public officials from bending over backwards to accommodating the team's owners.
The story of the Dome is a topsy-turvy tail of political maneuvering between Bloomington, St. Paul, and Minneapolis with all their quirks and idiosyncratic pride at stake. Minneapolis was an up and coming metropolis that styled itself after New York as the "Mini-Apple." Good Ole' St. Paul looked suspiciously on its cosmopolitan neighbor and felt threatened by its burgeoning sense of national confidence. Bloomington felt muscled out of the picture as it had played the role of host for the last 20 years of Minnesota sports. Rural towns and their folksy representatives felt it was all city slickin' nonsense who even went so far to say that rural dwelling Minnesotans couldn't find their way to Twin Cities. One idea pitched as a compromise offered funding for a portable stadium that could be inflated and deflated and moved about on semi trucks!
Of course, everyone who polled negatively about funding a stadium also expressed their desire for the teams to stay. The presence of professional sports teams is a serious quality of life issue that greatly enhances the entertainment options of the local fanfare. Major league sports is truly a public interest even if they are run much like a cartel that sits above the fray of antitrust laws. One businessman who tirelessly lobbied for a domed stadium Downtown was right when he said that Minneapolis would be like a "frozen Omaha" if the Twins and Vikings moved away.
And so the story of Minnesota politics begins with savvy business investors, gets bogged down in a cantankerous legislature, is signed by an optimistic governor, and then delegated to a commission who decides by a controversial 4-3 vote to build the Downtown Dome with no frills or expensive features. All for 55 million dollars. Under budget. And on time. There has never been a more paradigmatic example of a good process of stadium construction, and it was an absolutely brutal political process filled with contention and animosity.